“Attention Must Be Paid”: The Vanishing BYU Racial Slur Saga [Updated]

Ethics Alarms mentioned this nauseating but significant story briefly last week, here. Obviously it warrants more consideration, depressing though the conclusions might be.

At an August 26 volleyball match, match on Aug. 26, Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson’s claimed that she and her African American team mates targeted with repeated racial slurs from a crowd of more than 5,500 people the the Brigham Young University arena in Provo, Utah.  Richardson’s  godmother, Lesa Pamplin, was not at the match but still told the media that someone yelled “nigger” every single time Rachel was serving. Her father, Marvin Richardson, told The New York Times that the slur was repeatedly yelled from the stands at his daughter.

Well, they said it happened, so it must be true.

Moving with unseemly speed, BYU authorities fingered a fan pointed out by Richardson as the racist culprit and announced that he would be banned from Cougars’ sporting events evermore. Duke’s athletics director Nina King quickly said that her players “should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment which promotes equality and fair play.” University of South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, racing to grandstand, canceled all her team’s games against BYU, since its fans are obviously racists.

“I’m disgusted that this behavior is happening and deeply saddened if others didn’t step up to stop it,” Utah’s Republican Governor Spencer Cox tweeted on August 27 without know what happened. “As a society we have to do more to create an atmosphere where racist assholes like this never feel comfortable attacking others. ESPN resident race-baiter Stephen Smith was in high dudgeon. “I’m saying BYU- you did it!” Smith said on the air. “By allowing this to happen and not addressing expeditiously, not addressing it with a level of quickness and speed that you should’ve addressed this with.”

They banned the alleged racist before the game was over—how much faster could BYU have been?

Mike Freeman, the race and inequality editor for the sports section at USA Today, wrote a column on August 27 in which he called Richardson a “hero” and demanded an investigation. “What needs to happen next is a full investigation by BYU. If the school simply tries to move on with nothing but a statement that simply isn’t acceptable,” he wrote. “They need to interview players and coaches and the question consistently needs to be asked: why wasn’t the game stopped?”

Oopsie! They had the investigation, and found no evidence whatsoever that anyone was shouting racial slurs in the stands. Video showed that the fan BYU banned wasn’t shouting anything when Richardson was serving. Gee, the school said, we’re sorry for calling you a racist! Come back and cheer for us any time!

The statement announcing the investigation results: “From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event. As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe.”
The student newspaper did some investigating too, explaining,
The Cougar Chronicle has been unable to find a source in the student section that can corroborate Richardson’s claim of racial slurs being yelled at her. Vera Smith, a BYU student in the student section during the game, said she “heard absolutely nothing” that could be taken as a racial slur. Jacob Hanson, also a BYU student, shared texts with the Cougar Chronicle from two friends in two different parts of the student section that also heard nothing. They said they were not aware there had been a problem until after the game. Maddy Johnson, another BYU student who was in the ROC student section, said she did not hear any racial slur said and when she saw the individual escorted out of the arena he was in a different section.

The fan who was impugned and banned is mentally disabled, and was accused based on some of the Duke players hearing him speak. An athletic department representative said,

[Richardson’s] story doesn’t add up, BYU banned an innocent man to appease the mob and make their PR mess go away. While I don’t know if Ms. Richardson genuinely misheard something or intentionally made up this story, it certainly does not constitute the criticism BYU has gotten. There is zero evidence of a slur being said. Not a single witness, besides Ms. Richardson, has come forth. Not a single cell phone video or BYU TVs several camera angles caught a single thing. How unlikely, when this person supposedly said a slur during ‘every single serve.’

And there is this fascinating detail (I neglected to include this in the original version of the post): BYU has two players, Morgan Clinger and Kate Grimmer, whose names could be heard as “nigger,” particularly if a listener is predisposed to assume that race-based abuse is likely.

Is an “I’m sorry” in the offing? Nah. Not much, anyway. The virtue-signaling governor, Cox, pulled down his tweet and said,

After recently reported allegations of racism, I followed BYU’s own statement and condemned the incident in the strongest possible terms. Subsequently, it appears that neither the school, the media, law enforcement nor anyone else in the arena has been able to confirm these allegations. I will always speak out against racism. I also believe it is important to step back and acknowledge new facts as they come to light and speak publicly about them as well. Part of that requires patience, something I could have done better in this situation. I apologize to the fan who apparently was unfairly singled out.

Translation: “I will pander to systemic racism hustlers whenever possible, and facts be damned, until they can’t be, because if I waited for due process and evidence, they would be calling me a racist.” The truth is that a sufficient number of these alleged racist episodes turn out to be hoaxes, especially on campuses, that the burden of proof needs to be on the accuser. However, in today’s environment, the tendencies run in the opposite direction.

Even after BYU announced that Richardson’s claims could not be substantiated, Staley, the North Carolina coach, announced that she was standing by her decision to cancel her team’s games with the Utah college. That translates to, “Don’t confuse me with fact, my mind’s made up.” Or perhaps, “I know these white kids are all racists, whether they used the slur in that game or not.”

Freeman, the USA Today sports “race and inequality editor”called the BYU investigation results a “right-wing conspiracy theory.” Duke’s volleyball coach

Duke University vice president and director of athletics Nina King resorted to platitudes after the investigation’s conclusions were announced:

The 18 members of the Duke University volleyball team are exceptionally strong women who represent themselves, their families, and Duke University with the utmost integrity. We unequivocally stand with and champion them, especially when their character is called into question. Duke Athletics believes in respect, equality and inclusiveness, and we do not tolerate hate and bias.

Does Duke Athletics tolerate false accusations of racism? Shouldn’t it be performing its own investigation?

ESPN’s Smith, meanwhile, tried to “on the one hand/on the other hand” his way out of his previous leaps to conclusions, saying, “You can either believe BYU and take them at their word, or you can be a bit cynical and skeptical about them drawing this conclusion, questioning what level of veracity should we attach to them,” Smith said. “Pick your side….Racism, prejudice, still exists in this country,” BUT “we’re not doing ourselves any favors if we bring it up and broach it [racism] when it doesn’t exist.”

Yes, he actually gets paid for trenchant analysis like that.

UPDATE: The accusation had its desired effect: University of Oregon fans were heard and videoed chanting “Fuck the Mormons” during the Saturday home football game against BYU. Nobody at ESPN has criticized the university for not stopping the game….

25 thoughts on ““Attention Must Be Paid”: The Vanishing BYU Racial Slur Saga [Updated]

    • I dunno but yesterday a pro se litigant accused me of being a member of the Klan, which kind of threw cold water on any desire I had to settle the case. She’s a jerk but she gets to make wild accusations, ¿no?


  1. So, essentially, the burden of proof is on the university to prove that it didn’t happen.

    This kind of thinking is abhorrent to those who believe in due process. Few deny that racism still exists but questioning the outcome of the investigation just because of a blanket “racism exists” is not sufficient enough to convict in the court of public opinion.

    Or shouldn’t be.

    • The argument goes like this:

      1. Accuser: “Racists said bad things to me and about me! Do something.”
      2. Accused: “Uh, no I didn’t.”
      3. Accused’s Employer: “That’s horrid and the culprit has been disciplined. We reject all racism.”
      4. Accuser: “Not good enough. I want more!”
      5. Accused: “uh, but . . . I didn’t do it.”
      6. Accuser: “Yeah, you did. I heard you.”
      7. Accused: “Uh, I was in Nantucket at the time so it couldn’t have been me.”
      8. Accused’s Employer: “Oh, wait. Bob was in Nantucket and this happened in Abilene. We have to investigate this more thoroughly.”
      9. Accuser: “See?! Come witness the racism inherent in the system! Help! I’m being repressed.”
      10. Accused: “Whoa. I am not oppressing anybody. I have no idea what is happening.”
      11. Accused’s Employer: “After considerable investigations and expense, we find no evidence Accused did what he is accused of. We here take these allegations seriously and promote an inclusive, anti-racist environment with all of the crucial members of our team. We deeply regret that this might have happened.”
      12. Accuser: “You say there is no evidence it happened, but there is no evidence it DIDN’T happen, so I should be believed but someone somewhere sometime may have done this. Maybe not Accused, but someone.”
      `13. Accused: “Uh . . . .”
      14. Accused’s Employer: “Well, this has been an important lesson and we have grown as a result.”
      15. Don LeMon: “We here at CNN (yes, even at the 4:00 am to 5:00 am time slot where no one is watching) will fully investigate these heinous and vicious accusations and will hold everyone accountable until reparations are paid!”
      17: General Population: “What time is the Super Bowl? Pass the chips.”


  2. If racism requires the ability to exert power over another of a different race, it demonstrates unequivocally that people of color have sufficient power to dominate another race and can be racists themselves.

    • Good point Chris.
      You have shown that even by the limited and novel definition of racism taught at many universities, minorities can be racist and in fact are taught how to be at said universities. These universities need to change their Mission Statement to more accurately reflect their indoctrination goals.

  3. I am giving Rachel Richardson the benefit if the doubt in that she probably did hear racial slurs *every time* she served as a result of living within a toxic bubble of *perceived* oppression due to her skin color. The mind is notorious for playing tricks or imagining things that aren’t really there but seem totally real to one who has been brainwashed in a particular direction. If not this, then Richardson purposefully made it all up like a good obedient foot soldier in the oppression olympics and should be punished.

    Upon hearing the charge, *every time she served* should have raised Juicy Smoulay size red flags and therefore triggered a pause and wait by those who blindly piled on. I mean, only those whose minds have been severely corrupted and corroded with racial bias and hate would believe that level of harassment would have been tolerated by surrounding students.

    God Almighty, the crap that is tolerated at college campuses truly calls into question if these are actually facilities of higher learning.
    Stephen Smiths’ oversized ego disallowed him from offering a proper apology like: “My learned prejudice and hateful heart interfered with my objective thinking. Clearly I have significant inner work and healing to do. I am genuinely sorry and will strive to be better and not promote those who cry wolf in the future.
    Or something like that.

    • Just added to the post:

      “And there is this fascinating detail (I neglected to include this in the original version of the post): BYU has two players, Morgan Clinger and Kate Grimmer, whose names could be heard as “nigger,” particularly if a listener is predisposed to assume that race-based abuse is likely.”

      • Aarrgh, does that mean Batman should offer a retraction?
        Appears that Jack, in his spare time, has done more research into the matter than any of the newspapers, honchos, or talking heads that weighed in. Troubling that.

        • Nah. The video that they used to determine the fan wasn’t yelling slurs also showed that she served without hesitation, without any glances or any indication of discomfort every time.

          Yes it’s possible that she’s stone-cold in charge of her emotions and wasn’t fazed at all by the violence that her ears were subjected to, but the more likely explanation is that she didn’t hear anything but then either made it up later or convinced herself that she did hear it.

    • I misunderstand things my wife says in the kitchen when I’m eight feet away in the living room. That’s especially true when the A/C is running or she’s running water in the sink or the TV is on.

      Ms. Richardson, in the echo chamber that is a gymnasium, with five thousand people talking and shouting and whistles blowing…is it even remotely possible that she might have misunderstood one thing one person was saying amongst all that?

      It might be time for that banned spectator – if he/she is ever named – to contact Nicholas Sandmann. Let the defamation lawsuits begin…

      • Joel asked, “[i]s it even remotely possible that she might have misunderstood one thing one person was saying amongst all that?”

        Yes, it is, and it is not only possible but absolutely realizable. Racial epithets pierce through the air link a spear to the heart! They can be heard from miles away, whether in the form of a mere whisper or a gale force wind.


  4. Jack, as a well-intentioned warning from one whitey to another: you are not allowed to publicly utter the word “nigger” regardless of context.
    Well, unless you do not mind being smeared as a low-life racist and precluded from all future enterprise.
    Just trying to be helpful.

  5. I was curious, so I looked up the match.
    Duke was predicted to win fairly easily; they lost in four sets.
    Richardson was the only Duke player to have a negative hitting average (i.e., she had more errors than kills).
    She committed two service errors but recorded no aces.
    She had a team-high three service return errors (no one else had more than one).
    Would I suggest she’s trying to distract attention from a rather dismal performance on the court? Moi?

      • Her godmother really amplified it via twitter, and I’m wondering whether that was unexpected and unwelcome. What was her complaining to her family about racist white kids in Utah may have unintentionally turned into a national scandal that she wasn’t expecting.

        To temper that hypothesis is the fact that she did, in fact, complain about it during the game. From what I’ve seen, she didn’t say what specific harassment was occurring (that appears to be the godmother who was explicit about what was said), and she did in fact name the fan as the voice she heard.

  6. Attention must be paid, unfortunately, it will not. Why because that was last week’s news cycle and the media has never retracted the false stories they willingly publish without investigation.

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